A finger hits a red delete button on a computer keyboard
Whether you operate an online business or one that is brick and mortar, online reviews hold a lot of weight with potential customers. This is particularly the case when it comes to Google reviews. Google reviews can be a cost-efficient way of boosting your company’s credibility. Alternatively, they can lead to losing customers and negatively impacting your search engine ranking.

Why are Google reviews so important?

Google reviews provide an opportunity for your customers to offer their thoughts and opinions about your business to the general public. According to HubSpot, 72% of customers read a review for a business before taking action.

At the very best, reviews on Google help level the playing field against businesses that can afford expensive ad campaigns. Any user can type in a search term and stumble upon reviews from actual customers.

Google reviews also level the playing field when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Whether your company is large or small, Google reviews determine how highly your business ranks in search engine results. The higher your ranking, the more credible you are to Google.

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Fake one-star review? Here’s what to do.

If you’re reading this blog, you likely have received a fake one-star review from a competitor or an old negative review from a customer you’d like to get rid of.

Here’s the bad news: it’s unlikely Google will delete the review unless it’s in direct violation of their policies, including:

  • Spam or fake content
  • Off-topic
  • Restricted content (promotional offers)
  • Illegal content
  • Terrorist content
  • Offensive content
  • Dangerous and Derogatory Content
  • Impersonation
  • Conflict of Interest

In other words, Google will only get involved if there’s sufficient evidence that the content isn’t legitimate. Google’s policy discourages business owners from flagging reviews simply because they don’t like them. As long as the information seems to be relevant or factual the company will not attempt to discern who’s wrong or right.

How to report a fake review to Google

The good news: If you have evidence that the information is not factual, you can report the review. Simply choose the “Flag As Inappropriate” option next to your review. In Google Maps, this option appears whenever you select the three dots to the right of the review. In Google searches, this option appears as a flag icon that is positioned next to star ratings.

From there, you can navigate to the page that reports policy violations. You’ll be asked to provide your email address and to specify what type of violation has taken place. Once the report has been submitted, Google will review it and then contact you if they have feedback or require further information. You should receive a response within a week.

If you can’t wait, contact Google My Business:

  • Log into your account and navigate to the reviews section.
  • Navigate to the home menu and click on Support.
  • From there you’ll be asked how you prefer to be contacted.
  • After you’ve chosen an option, you can then answer a few questions and attach a screenshot of the review.
  • You should receive a response within a couple of days.

Google My Business will likely ask you several questions. They’ll ask about the specific policy that the reviewer violated. they’ll ask you why you think it’s not a legitimate review from an actual customer. They may request more supporting information. For example, you may have screenshots of the types of reviews that the user gives to other businesses so that Google My Business can see a definite pattern in their behavior. If your complaint is successful, then the review will officially be removed.

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What is the likelihood of Google removing fake reviews?

When Bragg Media received a one-star Google review from what appears to be a fake account, we immediately flagged the review and alerted Google My Business that this was a person with whom we haven’t worked.

Their response? Read for yourself:

It would be unfair on our part to pass judgment on the authenticity of the review/reviewer without any fair means to identify the truth. A one-star review without any comments would not make any impact on any business’s image as anyone visiting your business page would prefer to know the reasons or comments. We also noticed that you had responded to the reviewer asking for further feedback which will help your potential customers get to know your side of the story.

Your response to the reviewer would leave a positive impact and gradually it would fade away it’s visibility with time. Your customers have used words like wonderful, great, friendly etc while leaving reviews on your business page which sounds amazing! Your business page looks quite impressive and we are sure it would not smash up your potential customer’s decision to do business with you.

In most cases, Google won’t remove the review. However, Google is more likely to remove the review if it has been flagged several times. Some online resources recommend having several people flag a review, but this could take weeks and months. This way, the review will take priority and your concerns will be validated.

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Want a leg up (no pun, intended) on your digital marketing? Download our favorite list of free online resources.

The Best Bet: Respond to the negative review

Many business owners don’t realize that the way in which they respond to a negative review can have just as much of an effect on their business as the review itself. And that’s why it’s so important that you know what to say to customers who are unhappy. You may not be able to control what people post about your company, but you can definitely make these reviews work out to your benefit if you have the perfect response.

Ironically, the upside of negative reviews is that they make your positive reviews even more credible. By responding to negative reviews, you show your potential customers that you’re willing to address and resolve any issues. Specifically, it demonstrates that you’re passionate about customer satisfaction.

The key is to respond mindfully.

First, your response should exemplify humility. Many would agree that dealing with an unhappy customer can be very challenging. This is especially the case if you know that you’ve delivered the best service possible. However, don’t focus on how you feel when dealing with a negative review. Be empathetic and avoid coming off as defensive. Instead, show the customer that your goal is to resolve the issue.

One of the best examples comes from Barbers of the Lowcountry. A customer left a negative review, and the owner immediately jumped into action, apologizing for the negative experience and offering the reviewer a free haircut.

The result? See for yourself:

Focus on clearing up any confusion that the customer may have. In some instances, the bad review may be the result of a simple miscommunication or a misunderstanding. This could be resolved easily by clearing up any misunderstandings. Perhaps you need to offer more information about your product or services and how they work?

There might be cases in which you may need to offer the customer a specific solution. Perhaps your company made an error or failed to deliver the product or services that you promised. Maybe there was a quality issue. Lay out, in detail, how you plan to address the issue so that they will get the results that they need and want.

Best practices when responding to a less than stellar review

  • Begin with an apology and thank the reviewer for sharing his or her thoughts.
  • Acknowledge the results of the negative experience so the reviewer knows you fully understand what happened.
  • If appropriate, offer an explanation – not an excuse – for what happened (i.e. “our truck was in an accident and couldn’t get your order on time, and we’re sorry we didn’t have a contingency plan in place to get you what you needed”).
  • Explain what you’ll be doing to ensure the problem is addressed and does not continue to happen.
  • Include next steps and, if needed, your email address so the reviewer can follow up with you if he or she wants to discuss more.
    Thank the reviewer and apologize again before signing off.

SOURCE: HubSpot

Fake reviews? No matter.

No matter how hard you work to ensure that your customers are happy, there’s bound to be a situation in which someone is not pleased. It’s extremely unrealistic to assume that you’ll always have a five-star review, especially if you have a large customer base.

Keep in mind that reviews are a marketing tool. Not only can they be a great way to promote your business, but they can also be invaluable when it comes to gaining insight into the way people perceive your brand.

While most of your reviews will be authentic, there may be some that are fake. And in these instances, you can request that Google remove them. If your case is strong enough then the review will be removed.

More often than not, however, it’s likely you’ll have to find other ways to deal with the negative press. This includes responding in a way that shows your customers that you care. It can also mean generating as many positive reviews as possible to outweigh the negative ones.

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